Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Contraditions in Walnut Production Figures Accentuate Dismal Performance

Official apathy mars Rs 500 cr walnut industry

Rabia Noor (Greater Kashmir)

Srinagar: There seems to be contradiction in the figures of production of walnuts in Kashmir with the government claiming that over 1 lakh metric ton was produced annually while experts saying that the actual production was only 25 per cent of what is claimed.

“The government’s claim that 1 lakh metric ton of walnuts is produced every year is misleading. It is only on paper, not in records,” said Dr Zain-ul-Abidin, president, Kashmir Chamber of Food Processing Industry (KCOFI).

As per the official figures collected from deputy commissioner excise, Bashir Ahmad Saraf, the quantity of walnuts (in quintal) exported from the Valley through Lakhanpur for the past four fiscal years 2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09 (till ending February) was 29159, 44998, 33963 and 36709 quintal, respectively.

The quantity of walnut kernels in quintal exported from Kashmir during the same years was 75856, 93811, 109778, and 75767 quintal, respectively.

When converted into metric tons, the figures for walnuts stand at 2915.9, 4499.8, 3396.3 and 3670.9 metric ton respectively, where as figures for walnut kernels were 7585.6, 9381.1, 10977.8 and 7576.7 metric ton, respectively.

Generally in walnuts, 40 per cent is the yield, whereas 60 per cent goes waste in inner and outer husk. Therefore, by multiplying the quantity of walnut kernels by 2.5, we get the actual quantity of the walnuts, and the figures received this way were 18964, 23452.75, 27444.5 and 18941.75 metric ton, respectively.

Therefore, the total quantity of walnuts exported from the Valley was 21879.9 metric ton during the year 2005-06, 27952.55 metric ton during 2006-07, 30840.8 metric ton during 2007-08 and 22612.65 metric ton during 2008-09 (till February).

So the mean of the quantity of walnuts exported during past four years is 25,821.475 metric ton, which comprises of slightly over 25 per cent of the walnut production that is claimed by the government.

According to KCOFI president, only one to two per cent of the people in Kashmir consumed walnuts either indirectly or as nut “that would not comprise more than 50 quintal overall.”

“So how come the claim of government is valid that they produce 1 lakh metric ton of walnut annually when they do not produce even 30,000 metric ton?” he asked.

“In 2007, the figure had slightly picked up because the crop yield was fine in that year and then demand too was good. But it cannot go as high as 1 lakh metric ton,” he said.

He said no doubt global recession had been there in 2008, “but what about 2005 and 2006?” “Prior to recession, people would not store walnuts, for earlier the walnuts would be sold for over Rs 110 per kg, where as at present a farmer does not get more than Rs 40 per kg that too for high-grade walnuts,” he said.

Abidin said the global meltdown had adversely affected the walnut industry of the Valley, “but where are the rescue measures for this Rs 500 crore industry on the part of the government?”

“Whatever is happening on the departmental level is not enough,” he said.

He said the Valley had four departments in the name of horticulture and agriculture, namely Department of Agriculture, Department of Horticulture, Department of Horticulture Planning and Marketing and Department of Horticulture Produce and Marketing Corporation.

“These departments have got an excellent network all across India. They could have easily utilized this network to market mere 25,000 metric ton of walnut, which is the actual production of the Valley. But they don’t do so,” said Abidin.

“On top of that, the government does not know what the actual production of walnuts in the Valley is. They don’t have the correct data despite that they have got so many officials taking good amount of salaries. So the first thing government needs to do is activate its officials,” he said.

“We are the only producers of walnuts of the country, so central government too has to think in terms of rescue of the industry.”

Abidin said ultimately it was a farmer who was at loss. “Many of the farmers have sold their land in order to compensate the losses, especially farmers from Kupwara, Pulwama, Islamabad and in Sindh belt,” he said, adding that government must come to the rescue of the farmers.

He said banks too were not providing major rescue measures to the farmers the way they should have. “The rescue measures and schemes provided by the banks are not enough. It has to be more than that,” he said.

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